Lorde has the most social media savvy rejection of social media I've ever seen in my life. I never thought there would be an artist who could thrive and cultivate a better fandom away from social media, but Lorde has done it. Maybe social media isn't the end all be all of connecting with your fans in the twenty-first century. Possibly, Lorde has yet again found a better way.
Having a newsletter isn't new in pop. Using your newsletter well, though, is much rarer. Most of them are flimsy, label curated, and lacking any amount of depth. It's basically just "buy my merch", "buy my song", and maybe a presale code when that artist goes on tour. The untapped power of the newsletter is slowly starting to be realized by younger artists like Clairo and Gracie Abrams who are working to personalize that space. But no one has quite done it on the level that Lorde has.
Given that Lorde hasn't posted about anything besides onion rings since 2018, she needed a new strategy to connect with fans for a new era. And she found it in her email list. In editing down the audience she was writing for, the potential to connect became infinitely greater. On Instagram, she's speaking to millions of people in short phrases. It's honestly hard to find much substance in those wide, loud attempts at connection. Some people are good at cultivating social posts that seem intimate to millions, but I think we're all starting to realize how much of yourself you give up to have that kind of social presence. And that often leads to burnout. Where is the boundary that still enables authentic connection?
In her newsletter, Lorde seems to talk to an audience of one like you're her best friend. Her writing is infused with so much life and personality. You can't help but read it in her voice. And it rambles on for paragraphs and twists and turns like an unselfconscious conversation. As many artists have found, newsletters are a great space to explain fully and to share sensitive details because they're slower and more thought over. They get the reader's undivided attention. They're a healthier way to share more. And to share personal snippets with a level of connection to individual fans that is truly unmatched.
Lorde opened her latest newsletter with "Greetings my babies, and happy solstice," and I think that perfectly summarizes the feeling of what's to come. She starts by explaining the significance of the summer solstice. Then she launches into the meat of the update with a bit of a warning, "And what a better way to celebrate than with an EXTENSIVE DETAILS BULLETIN? (I'm joking, please go outside after reading this)".
She lets us know that the emails will come weekly or bi-weekly depending on how she feels and that these are updates from something dubbed the Solar Institute. The casual, relaxed feeling emanates through the newsletter, and you can tell she's honestly enjoying the writing.
There's a story about how she spent the "Solar Power" release with friends with some exclusive photos sprinkled in from release day. Then she gets back to releasing the brand new information. "Anyway," she remarks, "I have some major shit to announce so I gotta keep this moving."
She proceeds to announce the album, the track list, and all the merch that will come with it. She infuses this section with so much personality, it doesn't feel like she's selling you at all on two vinyls, a mysterious music box, and more merch items. I want all of her thoughts on these the merch (and I also want everything myself now). One of the best stories comes at the top of this section about the vinyl. "We have made some absolutely sensational vinyls for you guys that you will be able to go out and get the day the album comes out, no waiting for you, oh no! They've waited long enough, I told my team, shaking my finger (really, my team told ME, because I live basically on a different planet and need to be reminded of real world parameters constantly!!)". I love how authentically Lorde she always is and how she pokes fun at her infamous four year disappearance from the pop world.
The way that she describes this merch is ridiculously thoughtful, poetic, and compelling for talking about physical music. "No CDs this time. I didn't want to make something that would end up in a landfill in 2 years, but more than that, I wanted to make something that symbolized by commitment to asking questions of our systems and making stuff with intention and sensitivity". While I personally love CDs, this is a fascinating revelation. At the end, she throws in her personal opinion that this music box that replaces the CD will be the superior form of the physical album. I also think this shows Lorde's commitment to her fans and creative ideas over charting or sales numbers because literally any other artist would stick a CD in the box for the sake of it counting towards Billboard. She's actively encouraging fans to buy the item that won't help her on the charts.
Then she tornados into all the details about her tour which launched on her website today for next spring. She has some thoughts on this arrangement. "This is, thrillingly, something of an INTIMATE TOUR. Theaters and green fields rather than arenas. So you gotta get in there if you really wanna go," she warns us. She gives the pre-sale details and how she's trying to deter scalpers from "our dance party".
Finally, she got to the root of what this whole piece is about- her relationship to social media. "The rumors are true," she begins, "I'm not gonna be returning to social media this cycle, outside of the occasional temporary posts, I guess." She makes it sound like this is a journey she's still outlining the boundaries of. But unlike most celebrities who decide to get off social media, she makes it clear that it's not about avoiding or pulling away from the fans. Instead, she invites them on this exploration with her. "Being off social media makes me feel incredible- we can talk more about that another time- and I'd love to maintain feeling that good, and also build this really cool new zone with you guys. I want this bulletin to be our special spot," she explains. She continues to elaborate on everything that this bulletin would become and many of the forms feel more personal than an Instagram post could ever be. From backstage pics to recipes to more long form diary updates, I'm incredibly excited to delve into everything Lorde has to offer on a fairly regular basis.
To make it even better, she's expanding the realms of the zone and inviting people to write back to the emails so that she can answer a question or two from the fans dedicated enough to join the club. But she phrases it in a much cuter way than I ever could. "I've decided that if you're still reading this, you're probably a sensitive cutie who worships the sun (SCWWTS). I look forward to... continuing to chat with the freaks I know and love, and making the acquaintance of many more!"
There is something so incredibly warm, fuzzy, and affectionate in the way she reminds the reader to drink lots of water and go outside in her sign off. And I feel like I've received a verbal update from Lorde herself. Many people have remarked on how much it feels like talking to a friend. I've always been a fan of expansive, long-form writing with the time to fully explain, and that's what Lorde harnesses here. While I loved her snarky Twitter comebacks from years ago, this is a different level of depth and connection that makes it impossible to miss Lorde engaging on platforms outside of her own universe.
This is a model that I believe could revolutionize the relationship between many artists and fans. Social media is speaking to the entire world, which does inevitably make it a place of toxicity for artists- regardless of how much love is there as well. Some artists like Taylor Swift and Halsey took long breaks before returning on a more occasional, detached basis to interact with fans. Other artists abandoned their accounts completely. Still, more and more artists seem to resent having to maintain social presences. This leaves their content hollow, stale, and lacking in any kind of genuine connection with fans because most fans would rather have detailed thoughts over random selfies with short captions. Everyone has a different style, but some start to feel unnatural and do more harm than good for cultivating a fandom.
Especially in today's day and age, so many pop stars have their place in the music world partially thanks to the original connections they made on the internet. But everyone gets tired, and none of these stars have the presence they once did. Stepping back from social media is most definitely often the healthy option, but many of these moves aren't handled in the most graceful way. They leave fans feeling abandoned, in the dark, or like they did something wrong. Transitioning to an insulated newsletter platform or a paid club and Discord platform like Cavetown chose opens a window to share more, to cultivate honest vulnerability, and to take an audience of millions and pare it down to those who care the most, who won't misconstrue your words later. It becomes a considered and connected space.
With a genuine, time invested newsletter or other semi-private space, there is room to free yourself from social media without harming your career. The exclusive club feeling is almost more special than regular posting, and while this isn't the fastest way to grow an audience, it might be the most sustainable in the long run.
Lorde is the perfect artist to pioneer this new frontier. She had a similar rise to Billie Eilish with "Royals" and has since taken her career down many unconventional paths choosing the artistic freedom (and critical acclaim, even from Pitchfork) over pop radio hits. She's mysterious and ephemeral and ageless. I think she could make space for a class of artists who chose to do enough in a different way. Who aren't constantly pushing for a higher Billboard position and massive, unsustainable growth. Who cherish the intimate shows over craving arenas. Of course, there are financial constraints that come with this model that aren't geared towards the current music industry, but it's a world I'd like to see more of as much as I love meteoric pop stars like Taylor Swift.
Totally authentic. Connected in the right ways, and unconcerned with the wider sways of the industry. It's much more in-keeping with the general mentality of Gen Z.
It's clear that many artists are burning out on this constantly moving, TikTok driven version of the music industry, and it's completely unsustainable. I hope soon we can shift back towards quality interactions over quantity interactions, and as Lorde said, "retrain our brains together". As much as I love social media, this model might be the better path for everyone involved- fans, artists, and the wider industry.
Here's an easy link if I've thoroughly intrigued you enough to sign up for Lorde's newsletter ;)
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